Prince Edward County’s Newspaper of Record
May 21, 2024
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The Blue Sail

Inventive Menu for Local Festival

Rotating menus, operating the seafood market, and trying new things was the experience at The Blue Sail during its first Countylicious this past fall. It’s all ready for a second, starting this weekend.

The Seafood Market and Restaurant, which opened in 2019 on Picton Main Street, found their first Countylicious, to put it mildly, busier than they had expected.

Much busier.

Jeffrey Hounsell, chef and co-owner with Rachel Morris, said they were excited to be a part of the event. In its early evolution with the County, Countylicious had requirements around local produce that made it difficult for a seafood restaurant to participate.

“Countylicious had some criteria at one point that just did not make it workable for us,” he explained. “You had to have a certain amount of local product. There’s just not a lot of local Atlantic salmon. Depending on what genre of seafood or of cuisine you were in, it may have made sense for some, but not others.”

If he were operating a Mexican restaurant, for example, it would be hard to integrate local options from what is harvested in November into the menu while keeping it authentic. 

Before VTC inherited the program in 2022, it was run by the municipality. As now, the program was designed to promote farm-to-table dining through menus that offered a lot of value to the diner, explained County Spokesperson Mark Kerr.

“There was a requirement to feature local products, whether produce, meat, dairy, or value-added foods or beverages of all kinds.”

“The way that requirement was administered varied over the years, but was a key part of the program until the pandemic,” Mr. Kerr explained. “The municipality worked with a committee made up of restaurants during this time. That group was heavily involved in developing the requirements.”

Jeffrey Hounsell took a look at what might be available for harvest in and around Picton while preparing for this year’s Countylicious. His team got creative, incorporating local herbs, vegetables and other ingredients, like wine and maple syrup, to bolster the flavours of the seafood.

This spring, the menu features Lobster bisque with fresh tarragon, and a house-smoked Ontario rainbow trout. There’s fresh local sourdough bread, and a rich tomato sauce.

“As luck should have it, [co-owner] Rachel and her husband own a farm,” Mr. Hounsell said.

Together, they grew many of the items featured on Blue Sail’s Countylicious menu: garlic, shallots, onions, parsley, and other fresh herbs.

Every single dish on the menu features something local.

The Blue Sail started a Sunday Supper Club in 2020. Mr. Hounsell wants regulars of the club — which now counts 70 members and runs almost every Sunday the restaurant is open — to be able to come in for their old favourites.

“I run dual menus, which makes it a bit tricky because we didn’t know the balance we were going to get, but it was well received this fall. We’re getting to see our regular customers more than we used to!”

This text is from the Volume 194 No. 14 edition of The Picton Gazette
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